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The press release: much maligned but still important

Some say the press release is dying. Judging by the amount of awful examples peddled to journalists and editors daily many would argue that it’s not dying quickly enough.

But I still love the humble press release. Written correctly, it is still an efficient way to get key information to a target in an unfussy and readable way. Done right, a press release can be a thing of real beauty.
Problem is, it’s not often it is done right.

And this is the thing – you can often get better results from a direct email pitch, a good phone call or even a well targeted and timed Tweet.

But – what none of these things do as well as the press release is test the skills that a truly good PR operative should have.

A good press release takes real skill to produce. The writing must be clear, unfussy and to the point. Sentences have to be structured well. The message has to be immediately apparent. It must be as short and concise as possible, without missing out any key information. The headline must be immediately eye catching enough to outshine the dross filling up an editor’s inbox – and then deliver on its promise once opened.

The PR writing it must know all this and be able to execute it in order for it to be an effective medium. They have to be able to download the information they have available, decide what is important and what to leave out, what to paraphrase and what to quote. In some cases, especially when a lot of data and figures are involved, it can be a fiendish challenge to get this right.

But it’s a challenge I enjoy, and I still get more satisfaction from producing a well-crafted release than I do from almost any other aspect of the job. One release I produced recently resulted in over 35 pieces of top tier and sector specialist coverage across Europe and the US, it was translated into numerous languages and quoted in opinion articles for weeks after it was distributed.

The press release is much maligned, and justifiably so sometimes. But correctly executed it can garner excellent results - and is still the ultimate test of a PR’s mettle.

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